China warns McCarthy not to meet Taiwan’s president in L.A., threatens retaliation

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen with other officials
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, center, prepares to depart on an overseas trip that is expected to include a stop in Los Angeles.
(Johnson Lai / Associated Press)
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China on Wednesday threatened “resolute countermeasures” over a planned meeting between U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen during her upcoming stop in Los Angeles on an international trip.

Diplomatic pressure on Taiwan has ramped up recently, with Beijing poaching Taipei’s dwindling number of diplomatic allies while sending military fighter jets flying toward the island on a near-daily basis. Earlier this month, Honduras established diplomatic relations with China, leaving Taiwan with only 13 countries that recognize it as a sovereign state.

As she left Taiwan on Wednesday afternoon, Tsai framed her 10-day tour of the Americas as a chance to show Taiwan’s commitment to democratic values on the world stage.


“I want to tell the whole world democratic Taiwan will resolutely safeguard the values of freedom and democracy, and will continue to be a force for good in the world, continuing a cycle of goodness, strengthening the resilience of democracy in the world,” she told reporters before she boarded the plane. “External pressure will not obstruct our resolution to engage with the world.”

Tsai is scheduled to transit through New York on Thursday before heading to Guatemala and Belize. On April 5, she’s expected to stop in Los Angeles on her way back to Taiwan, at which time the meeting with McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) is tentatively scheduled.

The U.S. stops are the most closely watched of her trip.

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Zhu Fenglian, a spokeswoman for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, denounced Tsai’s U.S. stopover on her way to visiting diplomatic allies in Central America and demanded that no U.S. officials meet with her.

“We firmly oppose this and will take resolute countermeasures,” Zhu said at a news conference Wednesday. The U.S. should “refrain from arranging Tsai Ing-wen’s transit visits and even contact with American officials, and take concrete actions to fulfill its solemn commitment not to support Taiwan independence.”

Speaking later Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said China would “closely follow the development of the situation and resolutely defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

“The United States should stop claiming to set up guardrails for China-U.S. relations while conducting dangerous activities that undermine the political foundation of bilateral ties,” Mao told reporters at a daily briefing.


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Biden administration officials in a call with reporters ahead of Tsai’s arrival underscored that her transit is in line with what she and her predecessors have done in the past. Tsai has made six transits through the U.S. — stopovers that have included meetings with members of Congress and members of the Taiwanese diaspora — during her presidency.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive visit, said Tsai is also expected to meet with American Institute in Taiwan chair Laura Rosenberger. AIT is the U.S. government-run nonprofit that carries out unofficial relations with Taiwan.

One official added that “there is absolutely no reason” for Beijing to use Tsai’s stopover “as an excuse or a pretext to carry out aggressive or coercive activities aimed at Taiwan.”

However, the planned meeting with McCarthy has triggered fears of a heavy-handed Chinese reaction amid heightened frictions between Beijing and Washington over U.S. support for Taiwan, trade and human rights issues.

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Following a visit by then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan in August, Beijing launched missiles over the area, deployed warships across the median line of the Taiwan Strait and carried out military exercises in a simulated blockade of the self-governed island. Beijing also suspended climate talks with the U.S. and restricted military-to-military communication with the Pentagon.

McCarthy has said he would meet with Tsai when she is in the U.S. and has not ruled out the possibility of traveling to Taiwan in a show of support.


Beijing sees official U.S. contact with Taiwan as encouragement to make the island’s de facto independence permanent, a step that U.S. leaders say they don’t support. Pelosi (D-San Francisco) was the highest-ranking elected U.S. official to visit the island since then-Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1997. Under Washington’s official “one China” policy, the U.S. acknowledges Beijing’s view that it has sovereignty over Taiwan but considers Taiwan’s status as unsettled. Taipei is an important partner for Washington in the Indo-Pacific.

U.S. officials are increasingly worried about China attempting to make good on its long-stated goal of bringing Taiwan under its control by force. The sides split amid civil war in 1949, and Beijing sees U.S. politicians as conspiring with Tsai’s pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party to make the separation permanent and stymie China’s rise as a global power.

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The 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, which has governed U.S. relations with the island, does not require Washington to step in militarily if China invades but makes it American policy to ensure Taiwan has the resources to defend itself and to prevent any unilateral change of status by Beijing.

Tensions escalated this year when President Biden ordered a suspected Chinese spy balloon shot down after it traversed the continental United States. The Biden administration has also said U.S. intelligence findings show that China is considering sending arms to Russia for its war in Ukraine, but has no evidence Beijing has done so yet.

China, however, has provided Russia with an economic lifeline and political support, and Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping met in Moscow this month. That was the first face-to-face meeting between the allies since the eve of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine more than a year ago.

The Biden administration postponed a planned visit to Beijing by Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken following the balloon controversy but has signaled that it would like to get such a visit back on track.


Mao, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, laid the blame for tensions squarely on Washington for boosting its relations with Tsai. Beijing has frozen almost all contacts with Tsai’s administration since shortly after she was elected to the first of her two terms in 2016.

“It is not that China overreacts. It is that the U.S. kept emboldening Taiwan independence forces, which is egregious in nature,” Mao said.

Tsai’s state visits coincide with a 12-day trip to China by her predecessor, Ma Ying-jeou, of the pro-unification Nationalist Party, in an appeal to voters whose descendants arrived with Chiang Kai-shek’s defeated forces in 1949.

Ma has been visiting sites in the former Nationalist capital of Nanjing and emphasizing historical and cultural links between the sides, while avoiding the politically sensitive topics of China’s determination to eliminate Taiwan’s international presence and refusal to recognize its government.

Tsai is barred from seeking a third term, and her party is widely expected to nominate Vice President Lai Ching-te to run for the presidency in January.